Read Matthew 6 at Bible Gateway.
We saw in the last chapter of Matthew that Jesus began teaching on what it means to truly obey the Ten Commandments. In this chapter He continues in that vein. I believe His over all theme in Mat 6 has to do with not coveting; not keeping our heart fixed on our material needs or possessions.
Verses 1-18 have to do with doing religious things in order to be seen by men. What does that have to do with coveting? Being seen provides a reward which men give you because they esteem you when they see you doing righteousness. Therefore the motivation for doing good, whether of giving, praying, or fasting, is GIVING TO GET, praying to get, or fasting to get. If that is the case, the real desire of the heart is to get something; i.e. coveting or not being content with what God has provided for you at present.
So Jesus teaches us that we need to cultivate time in the secret place, where only God sees what we are doing. Giving in secret, praying in secret, and fasting in secret, is the antidote for a covetous heart.
In verses 9-13, Jesus teaches us to pray. This is the prayer that I pray when I have my daily prayer time. I figured that if anyone knew how we ought to be praying to God, it would be Jesus, and this is how He encouraged us to pray. I like it because it covers all the bases: it ensures we enter into the throne room as a son and a fellow heir with Christ Jesus, because only a son can say, “Father.” So before the prayer even begins, you are reminding yourself of your status before God, that your access to His presence is a free gift of grace bought for you by the blood of Jesus Christ. Because the prayer begins, “Our Father,” and not “My Father,” already you are reminded that you are brothers with your fellow believers. It is SO much harder to come before the throne of grace and complain about so and so when before you even open your mouth, you are reminded that so and so and you are joint heirs before the Father! That the Father loves him (or her) as much as He loves you!
And on and on. A person could write a book about the benefits of praying the Lord’s Prayer. All I know, is that God is pleased by our obedience, even in little things like praying the Lord’s Prayer just because Jesus said it was a good idea. Blessings follow obedience, and the effectiveness of my prayers have increased in the results I have seen since. Not because God is a respecter of persons, but because He is not, and what He respects is His Word.
So if this chapter is about coveting, why insert the Lord’s Prayer in the middle of it? Jesus is teaching us that whatever material need we have, cultivate the habit of asking God to “give us this day our daily bread,” to go to our Provider to provide for us. The flip side is also true; that when we trust God to meet our needs, we can settle our hearts to be content with what He chooses to provide.
In verses 19-21, the passage on laying up treasures in heaven, and not on earth, is conveniently ignored by many teachers who teach biblical finance. I have gone through several different programs, books, and bible studies, and NONE of them transgress the perceived wisdom that thou shalt invest in the world’s economy to increase thy wealth.
Listen, if the world’s economy collapses, how can a person who has laid up treasures on earth receive a return for their investment? How is even gold worth something when what is really scarce is bread? But the person who has laid up treasures in heaven, — i.e., provided for the kingdom of heaven, church, missions, giving to the poor, widows, and orphans, etc. — trusts in God for a return on their investment, and God is more than able to provide it, even when the world’s economy collapses and what is really scarce is bread. God has bread, and everything else a person might need. 🙂
I realize the above is a controversial position. But at the same time, how can Jesus’ words be interpreted any differently? That is a legitimate question, and if someone sees something I am not seeing, please, let us discuss!